The squad was all over the country yet again this week, with Alexey meeting up with some of the best mountain bike pros in the nation, and Cody flying the flag in the Michigan Gravel Race Series’ last stop before a long break. How’d they do? We’re going to tell you. Chill out.
We’ll start out west, where Alexey rocked out another two-races-in-three-days weekend with the folks at Epic Rides and Grand Junction Off Road. Just a few weeks after a similar set up at the Whiskey Off Road, Friday night’s criterium got things going before Sunday’s cross-country event. The pavement stuff is old hat to Alexey, and once again, he proved that he’s got the horsepower and the daring to go bar-to-bar with the very best. He knocked out 11th place and then put the legs up before Sunday’s forty-mile XCO race.
With over 5,500 feet of elevation, Grand Junction is brutal. Not one inch of that elevation comes easy; where the trail is smooth, the pace is incredibly high, and where things are rough, every pedal stroke is a prayer for traction. A big chunk of that elevation gain comes on one climb, Windmill Road. At over 1,800 feet, it’s a launch pad for action, and Alexey made the absolute most of it. Only Russell Finsterwald set a quicker time to the top. Alexey’s big effort saw him get back in the mix, but the insane descents saw a bit of time and plenty of spots slip away. He’s still got to be proud of posting 40th overall in one of the deepest fields of the season.
A bit closer to home, Cody Sovis made the drive down to Arcadia from Traverse City for the Arcadia Grit & Gravel. It’s the race’s second season as a part of the Michigan Gravel Race Series, and sits just a few weeks before a lot of Series’ committed gravel crew returns on June 8 for the Sancho 200, the next Ultra event for 2019.
Arcadia is the perfect event for the Exploro; if you were designing a race course to maximize the ability of drop bars and 2.0” tires, this is it. In total, there’s about 17 miles of gravel and pavement, plus 10 miles of the most fun, flowy singletrack in the state. Even in Saturday’s soggy weather, the trails are the absolute highlight of the day.
From the start, Cody was on the front and staying out of trouble with an Elite field jam-packed with strong riders, including Mud, Sweat and Beers runner-up Jamison Sheppard. When the race hit dirt and slammed into the base of the Erdman Road climb, it was Sovis and Sheppard who ramped things up just as the deep sand wreaked havoc on the bunch. Over the top of the 200-foot climb and the pair found themselves with a whopping thirty seconds and two other riders for company. With Cody taking long turns and getting help, that lead went out to over a minute before they hit the biggest climb in the state up Taylor Road. Even with attacks from behind, the leaders held their lead into the singletrack, where Sheppard was head and shoulders quicker. He helped himself to a forty-second lead and was committed to staying clear.
Cody was able to use a two-mile section of gravel to regain contact with Sheppard, with Dave ‘Sunset’ Scott on the wheel and waiting to strike. It was a solid effort, but with Sheppard so much faster in the final singletrack section, and he easily cruised to the win. Sovis gave it the beans back to Arcadia and rolled across the line for second, slapping hands with Scott as they rode it in.
After the race, more than a few folks were eyeing Cody’s set-up, but it was one we’ve seen him use plenty of time before; 50/34t chainring, 11-28 cassette, and 2.0 Schwalbe Thunderburts on 3T’s Discus Plus wheels. That extra girth was handy in the sandpit, and in Michigan, sand pits are often more selective than climbs!
The MGRS has a long break until the next event, which is The Divide in Manton, Michigan, on July 28. For now, the Series leaders have a few months to relax and savor seeing their names on top, but there are a lot of tough events still on the calendar and plenty of chances to see other riders nab points.